This is really quite amazing

US public transportation is notoriously underdeveloped compared to most other wealthy countries. In fact, according to a recent study, the New York City subway is the only US rail system that ranks among the 10 busiest in the world.

Another report found that transit ridership fell in 31 of 35 major metropolitan areas last year, including in Washington, DC, Chicago, and New York City. However, 2018 has birthed some new transit projects, including a high-speed rail line from New Haven to Hartford, Connecticut, and the TEXRail, which will travel from downtown Fort Worth to DFW Airport.

Christof Spieler, a structural engineer and urban planner from Houston, has lots of opinions about public transit in America and elsewhere. In his new book, Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit, he maps out 47 metro areas that have rail transit or bus rapid transit, ranks the best and worst systems, and offers advice on how to build better networks. I recently spoke to him by phone about what cities are doing right and wrong in investing in public transit, and what they should focus on for future projects.

The bloke who works as an urban planner says that the cities doing well are those that employ lots of urban planners.

Remarkable that.

Pensions are indeed deferred wages

Urgent talks are under way to avert a mass walkout on the railways in a growing row over pensions.

Tensions have risen over the Pensions Regulator’s demands that train companies and workers plug yawning deficits in their final-salary schemes.

Well, yes.

“We will always seek to protect our members’ deferred wages and resolve any issues in the best way possible, based on their wishes.”

Pensions are deferred wages. Therefore we’d better include pensions in our calculations of wages, hadn’t we?

So, public sector, you underpaid are you?

Why would this help?

Britain must appoint a minister for cyber security because it is lagging behind Russia and not doing enough to protect critical national infrastructure, MPs have warned.

The Joint Committee on National Security Strategy found ministers are failing to act with “a meaningful sense of purpose or urgency” in the face of the growing cyber threat to the UK.

It said while states such as Russia were expanding their capability to mount disruptive cyber attacks, the level of ministerial oversight was “wholly inadequate”.

Why would a Minister in charge aid us? Don’t we do that when we want something to fail? And given the British state’s proven competence at things online (NHS for Change anyone?)…..

Suppose so really

Affordable housing residents in a new enclave of 3,400 homes are being prevented from using a luxury swimming pool and gymnasium, which are being kept for the exclusive use of private owners and renters.

Residents paying taxpayer-subsidised rents at Royal Wharf in the London borough of Newham have complained they are victims of segregation because they will not have access to a state-of-the-art clubhouse that neighbours who own or rent privately will enjoy.

Homes in the complex on the north bank of the Thames sell for up to £1.2m but 243 apartments have been made available to people on lower incomes at 60% of market rent as part of a flagship scheme by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, to try to fix the capital’s housing crisis.

Up to about 500 residents are affected and some have branded the decision unfair because it appeared to discriminate against them because they were less well-off than the other people at the estate.

Yes, this is discrimination against you. Just as the decision to offer you subsidised housing is discrimination in favour of you.

Swings and roundabouts really, isn’t it.

How very interesting

Fire alarms would be more effective at waking sleeping children in the event of a blaze if they were fitted with the sound of their mother’s voice, a new study has shown.

Children’s hearing is different to that of adults, and British research last year showed that 80 per cent of under 13s do not wake up to the high-pitched sound of a normal home smoke detector.

You mean all that money spent on installing alarms absolutely everywhere – it’s worth it if it saves just one child! – was wasted?

Sounds about right

Mohamad Machine-Chian
Yesterday at 8:13 AM ·
The Iranian Department of the environment—a.k.a champions of confused priorities and wasted budgets—decides to move the ten last zebras left in the country from one national park to another. Five of them die during a car accident and the other five escape. Days later, they have proudly listed the gathering of the five remaining zebras among their accomplishments.

Logic’s not a new mother’s strong point, is it?

I gave birth to my daughter in March, and I’ve begrudgingly had to place her in a nursery already because I have to work.


A poll conducted by We Own It found that 44% of UK adults are in favour of public ownership of buses. Yet in 2016, the Conservative government brought in the bus services bill, which banned local councils from starting new publicly owned bus services. Meanwhile, most commuters are served by just five private bus operators. In one web survey, 19% of respondents said they had to turn down offers of employment because of poor bus services.

The demonstration in Bristol aims to show First Bus that people in the city aren’t prepared to put up with this any more. We also want to make sure bus drivers are supported at work so that they are healthy and stay in the job longer.

A nationalised bus system would offer an efficient, democratic and fair transport service, preventing situations like the one we have seen in Bristol. However, for councils to nationalise bus services there needs to be a change in the law. For that to happen, we’re going to need many more angry people to fight for it.

Currently people only have 5 choices in bus service. Thing will be better if we reduce this to one choice.


This is an interesting point about pensions taxation

An expected tax raid by Phillip Hammond in the Budget will widen the gap between the retirement funds of public and private sector workers, a report has warned.

Analysis for the Telegraph found stripping back tax relief on money saved into pensions would hit private sector workers significantly harder than their public sector equivalents, who already enjoy far more generous arrangements.

Not entirely sure how it works but I cam see that it will increase the inequality.

Currently, to get £y in pension a private sector worker, looking at a defined contributions pension, must save very much more than a public sector worker must make contributions into a defined benefits pension to gain that same £y pension. One reasonable estimate says that this makes public sector pay 30% higher than private sector. Pensions being, as the TUC says, just deferred pay.

Remove the tax relief on private s#pensions savings, but the public sector ones not being affected in the same manner, that gap widens.

Is that it? Or would an actual pensions expert like to explain this to us?

This is probably true isn’t it?

Ministers need to be “honest” and admit that they have quietly shifted the burden of basic public services onto households and volunteers, a new report has found.

The Institute for Government said that households are increasingly having to pay for public services ranging from their care in old age to garden waste collections.

Who is there to pay for government but us chickens?

Does Australia produce cotton?

Wearing wool pyjamas to bed instead of cotton gives up to 15 minutes’ extra sleep, new research has found.

Experts say wool helps keep the body in the “thermal comfort zone” most conducive to restful sleep.

Scientists in Australia carried out two studies of young and older sleepers to test the theory.

No, but Australia does produce rather a lot of wool.

Not that this would bias the research, Heaven Forfend, but it might have an effect on how much its publication is publicised….

This HES scandal

As far as I can see there are two competing narratives here.

1) Low bidder screws up and cannot actually do the job. Boo! privatisation.

2) Enviros and others have closed down the high temp incinerators required by the enviros for this waste. Nowt anyone can actually do until new one built.

Anyone got any idea which of these contains even a grain of truth?

Politics, eh?

May moves to end austerity
PM pledges billions despite Brexit uncertainty

Theresa May has declared that Britain’s decade of austerity is over with a pledge to increase public spending after Brexit. The prime minister used her conference speech to make a series of costly commitments that will limit the options of Philip Hammond, the chancellor, in this month’s budget. They also led to immediate demands for more money by other cabinet ministers.

If they get to spend the sweeties then I get to spend more sweeties!

Well, yes

Tonight in one of the world’s richest countries, more than 300,000 people won’t have a home to call their own. They will sleep instead in temporary accommodation, in homeless hostels, in rooms provided by social services – and in the worst case out on the streets.

295,000 of them will be housed at the expense – and rightly so – of the rest of us. We are a rich country and we do things about this. The other 5,000 or so have issues which aren’t about the lack of housing in the first place.

Well, good start perhaps

But now comes the difficult bit:

A village in Switzerland plans to pay residents almost £2,000 a month for doing nothing as an experiment into an unconditional basic income.

Rheinau, on the Rhine river at the border with Germany, hopes to pay participants up to 2,500 Swiss francs (£1,970) a month to ensure they have a guaranteed income whether they work or not.

The village council decided to go ahead with the scheme after more than half of Rheinau’s 1,300 inhabitants signed up to take part, and efforts to secure funding will now begin.

There’s many a good idea out there it’s getting people to pay for them which is so often the sticking point.

But unlike the national proposals, the Rheinau scheme will not be funded by the taxpayer. Instead the village plans to raise the necessary money through crowdfunding.

The project is the brainchild of Rebecca Panian, a Swiss film-maker who says she was inspired by the rejected national scheme.

“The idea, and the new social system that would go with it, made sense to me,” Ms Panian says on the scheme’s website.

“And, given the social and economic changes around the world, it seemed sensible at least to test an idea for a new future before dismissing it as nonsense.”

Not entirely stupid actually, There are some rich people out there willing to fund basic income experiments. As long as they insist it is an experiment, one that they’ll monitor properly, make all info available etc, they might be able to do it. Makes a nice change really, doesn’t it? Asking not demanding?

That’s why CEOs get the big bucks

TSB chief executive Paul Pester is standing down following criticism of his handling of a bungled IT switch earlier in the year that left thousands of customers unable to access their accounts for days.

Mr Pester, who was singled out for harshly worded criticism by MPs on the Treasury select committee, will leave with immediate effect.

Unlike Ministers who just sail on into the Cabinet after having pissed away the taxpayers’ money. Actually, that’s a requirement of making it to Cabinet.